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My First Time Experience In a Creationism Sermon Monday, July 30, 2007

Posted by henry000 in Anthony Flew, anti-creationism, anti-evolution, anti-fundamentalism, Charles Templeton, Christianity, church, Creation Ministry International, creationism, fundamentalism, Haeckel, Piltdown Man, Presbyterian, science, sermon, Sydney.
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Given the rare chance and out of immense curiosity, I attended a creationism sermon – for the very first time – at a Sydney Presbyterian church last weekend. The title of the sermon is Creation, a Key to the Gospel.

The presenter was Dr. Tas Walker, a retired engineer with quite a good working experience. He now works full time at the Australian based fundamentalist organisation called Creation Ministries International, where the Ken Ham, the brain behind the $US27 million Creation Museum originally comes from. I knew this before I attended the sermon, and was glad that someone highly educated and seemingly intelligent was delivering it, rather than the idiotic Ray Comfort type. The sermon was conducted with Powerpoint slides.

Walker opened the sermon by showing a collection of newspaper headlines on evolutionary discoveries, presenting it as if the secular media favours too much on evolution. He also asked if the Christians have ever had troubles or being bothered in completing school assignments on evolution, and how he hoped his presentation would answer some of the troubles. This exemplifies one central characteristic of fundamentalists – the psychology of they being marginalised and even victimised by the secular society. Perhaps these creationists should openly protest against the teaching of evolution and start a public civil movement of destroying the fact of evolution.

After this sensationalised opening, Walker proceeded to the make his case of why creationism matters. I did not fully grasp his logic because I was puzzled by his reasoning. Anyhow it roughly went something like this: Christianity is based on the Gospels and the Genesis, the two absolute central basis of the Bible, and it is in the Genesis that it states clearly that God created the world and all living things. Then evolution comes along and turns this completely upside down, hence it must be bad for Christianity. This is quite the normal argument (although I regretted not having writing down or recording his sermon… but I think next time I will be much better prepared).

Then Walker started mentioning a number of people appeal to the emotions of the audience. For example, the Australian playwright David Williamson, whose work is studied at many Australian schools, was quoted that after he learned about evolution, he turned into a non-believer. Walker presented that Charles Templeton turned into a non-believer because of the materialistic science advances such as evolution and the Big Bang. To my surprise he even mentioned Richard Dawkins, without giving the background of who he is! This shows that the so-called New Atheism Movement, spearheaded by Dawkins and Harris and so on, has definitely made an impact in the general moderate Christian population, and this, is a good thing.

I did not know who Templeton was (pardon my lack of knowledge here…) but this turns out to be a good thing in hindsight, because the impression I got from Walker’s presentation was that Templeton converted to an agnostics mainly because of the scientific theories. A quick google lookup allowed me to see that Templeton became a non-Christian mainly because of his disbelief in the Bible, neither because of evolution nor the Big Bang. What this shows is how often the creationists and fundamentalists spin facts and twist quotes to deliver maximum emotional impacts on the average people.

Also several more names and faces where thrown in the sermon, one which I remember is that of Anthony Flew. Walker made his case that Flew flipped from the top atheist in the world to a god-believer, because Flew had come to a conclusion that the complexity of life must have come from a designer, not by evolution.

The next phrase of his sermon was the rebuttal of evolution. Can you guess how this is done? Using selected examples: the Piltdown Man, Haeckel’s Drawings, living fossils such as shrimps and horseshoe crab. Are you surprised? I was actually disappointed in just how thin and invalid his rebuttal was (and there was no mention of missing fossil links, the creationist favourite). Then again perhaps I shouldn’t – because the fact of evolution is so well established now that it is hard for the creationists to pick on it anymore than what they could have done decades ago.

At this point I want to mention that littered throughout the sermon was his repeated passing references to the so-called secular education system, particular in the higher educational institutions such as the universities, where, according to Walker, are administered with the non-believers – and this poses a dire situation for the Christians. Again, this shows the worldview of the fundamentalists – that they have been mistreated and oppressed by the secular society that we live in today.

Towards the end of the sermon Walker shifted focus from evolution to uniformitarianism (the idea that the past can be studied from present natural processes). First he attacked gradualism in geology by implying that the recent advances in the catastrophism theory of geology makes stronger case for the young-earth theory and hence creationism.

Next and finally, Walker quickly mentioned radiometric dating by showing a picture of a measuring tube with water dripping into it. The tube contains some water with the rate of dripping written. He asked the audience, how long has it taken for the water to drip to the amount of water in the tube as shown? This was simple enough, but Walker said that there was a catch – one cannot assume that the rate has always been constant in the past, and that is the problem with radiometric dating.

I thought that example was quite powerful for the average Joe, but just like all creationism arguments, it is wrong and over-simplified.

With that, the sermon ended and a couple of questions were asked. Regrettably I cannot remember what they were and how Walker had answered them, but I think there was nothing substantial. The audience was encouraged to purchase books and DVDs. Pity I really had to leave for personal reasons; but before I left, I noted that out of the 30-something people there, only one was talking to Walker and only three or four of them were looking at the books and DVDs, while the rest of the attendants were socialising.

Throughout the sermon I tried to pay attention to the attendants and in particular how they audience reacted to his sermon. The atmosphere certainly felt like a university lecture – people seemed to listen, but hardly any enthusiasm shown. I am sure one person was recording at least part of it on his mobile phone. That is about all I can say.

Well in conclusion I must say that I did not prepare well enough for it and this is a lesson learned. Now, for the sermon – it was presented as an emotional appeal to the audience with very thin little factual material. It was designed to firstly make the Christians feel they are under attack from evolution (the secular education system, media, figures such as Templeton), then it showed a couple of invalid examples of evolution studies (the Piltdown Man and Haeckel’s drawings) and an empty attack on geology and the radiometric dating.

I am waiting for the next one which I think will be in September. I am looking forward to it.

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Comments»

1. Steve B - Wednesday, August 1, 2007

I agree it’s unfortunate that he didn’t have more hard data to back up his position. There’s plenty out there. Stuff like irreduceable complexity, variation within a species vs spontanteous generation of new species.

The complex and error correcting nature of DNA. The fact that the vast majority of changes to the DNA take the form of damage, not innovation, and result in defects and disease, not a more advanced or adpatable for of the original.

But that’s just my layman’s pass at it.

2. Brian MacIntyre - Friday, August 3, 2007

More about Charles Templeton – he was quite well known here in Canada as a writer and broadcaster. His novels included one about the discovery of the bones of Jesus; he also, even as a non-believer, produced a combined version of the four gospels.

He actually was an evangelical preacher for a while, and was part of the Billy Graham Crusade. He remained friends with Graham even after he’d renounced his faith.

There are a fair number of atheists and agnostics out there who started out as fundamentalists/evangelicals. Apparently when you have the “my way or the highway” attitude to faith, eventually some people are bound to say, “All right – the highway it is.”

3. h3nry - Saturday, August 4, 2007

Thanks Brian, I am curious about the underlying psychology of transforming from fundamentalists to atheists/agnostics.

Recently there is an article of a newspaper reporter’s journey from a firm believer to a non-believer that you might be interested in:


http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-lostfaith21jul21,0,3530015,full.story?coll=la-home-center


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